So here we are. 32 years after the release of The Return of the Jedi (1983), we finally have the next vital chapter in the Star Wars saga, The Force Awakens (2015). How does it measure up to the quality of the original films? Thankfully, both long-time fans and newcomers will find lots to love in this new thrilling episode of the Star Wars franchise.
Finn, a Stormtrooper, decides to flee the First Order and goes to the planet Jakku. There he meets Rey, and together they traverse the galaxy, meeting old heroes such as Han Solo, Chewbacca, and General Leia, and new ones such as ace Resistance pilot Poe Dameron. They will also have to face Kylo Ren, a villain who is powerful with the dark side and as mysterious as he is deadly.
I can’t really give a specific review without going into spoiler zone so I’ll keep this as simple as possible. Rey and Finn are a great pair of lead heroes. Daisy Ridley’s Rey in particular proves to be versatile and more than capable of taking care of herself. Having such a great female character become the new face of the franchise is particularly compelling. Likewise, John Boyega’s Finn is a humorous and charismatic action hero. My particular favourite was Poe Dameron, portrayed by Oscar Isaac, who was everything I wanted him to be.
Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren is perhaps the great discovery of this film. Gone are the two-dimensional villains of the prequel trilogy; we finally have a villain in Kylo Ren who can live up to the shadow that Darth Vader has cast across the series. He is so much more than a villain wearing a black mask and holding a lightsaber. He has genuine complexities and remains perhaps the film’s most interesting character.
Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew and Mark Hamill all return in their signature roles. Ford picks up Han Solo’s character effortlessly. This isn’t Ford doing Ford on screen for two hours – this is legitimately Han Solo, with a complex history behind him that may have changed some aspects of his character but still leaves him as the rugged space-pirate come Rebellion general that we all know him for. Carrie Fisher’s General Leia commands the room whenever she is on screen. I genuinely choked up at her appearance. Peter Mayhew’s Chewbacca gets his best scenes yet, as Chewbacca emerges from simply being Han Solo’s buddy to being his own character. And Mark Hamill… I wont say anything, but I’ll let you know that his first appearance is easily one of the best moments of the film. He has all the gravitas that you would expect the legendary Jedi to have.
The greatest virtue of The Force Awakens is that it is a single story- unlike the prequel trilogy, this film stands well as it’s own adventure whilst having the connective tissue that will allow the story to bridge into the upcoming sequels. Many questions are answered about what has happened between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, but there are so many more questions that will provide for lots of debate among fans until the debut of the next episode. The Force Awakens left me even more excited for what is to come next.